A few years ago during the wrestling season, I was on the go a ton. My first client would be at 5:30 or 6 in the morning, and I’d continue training clients straight through until about 2 in the afternoon, rush to the school that I coached for wrestling practice until about 6, get home, take my dog for a walk, eat, and go to bed. I struggled to find time to train, and I never seemed to be able to eat enough. Needless to say, I dropped about 15 pounds during the season. My strength was in the tank and I felt really beat up and run down.
I should have planned better, and had better nutritional strategies in place, but I ran into the issue that so many of us have at some point or another: we put everything else before our own needs, and ultimately, our health and well being suffers.
Since that season I have, through trial and error, worked out a training template that has worked really well for me when life gets crazy busy. It’s challenging, will build strength and muscle, and it’s super dense so every minute is maximized.
I’ve utilized this program several times over the last few years, but it’s been especially important over the last 4 months. Between packing up and selling our house in Boston, moving across the country, building my business at the new club here in Carlsbad, coaching our offseason wrestling program, teaching our trainer’s in house curriculum, and trying to explore the area a bit, I’ve been pretty strapped for time.
Here’s the nuts and bolts, and how to tailor it for your needs and purposes:
|1A. Knee Dominant Strength Focus||1A. Horizontal Push Strength Focus||1A. Hip Dominant Strength Focus||1A. Vertical Push Strength|
|1B. Trunk/Mobility Work||1B. Trunk/Mobility Work||1B. Trunk/Mobility Work||1B. Trunk/Mobility Work|
|2A. Hip Dominant x8-10||2A. Horizontal Pull x8-10||2A. Knee Dominant x8-10||2A. Vertical Pull x8-10|
|2B. Horizontal Pull x8-10||2B. Vertical Push x8-10||2B. Horizontal Pull x8-10||2B. Horizontal Push x8-10|
|2C. Horizontal Push x8-10||2C. Knee Dominant x8-10||2C. Horizontal Push x8-10||2C. Hip Dominant x8-10|
This can be done 4 times a week, with each lift being done once, but I prefer to train 3 times a week, so Week 1 I’ll do lifts A, B, and C, Week 2 I’ll do D, A, B, and Week 3 will be C, D, A, and so on. I like training 3 days each week and having a 4th day to just have fun and maybe do a little extra arms and some hill sprints, or just play around for a bit with some bodyweight stuff. This is all dependent on time, though. If I’m too short on it, then I just stick with my 3 days.
Daily Main Lift
The first lift of each day is focused on strength and moving something heavy. Heavy is a relative term, but I’m a big fan of Dan John’s concept of 15-25 reps for half body lifts like squat and press variations. This could mean 5 sets of 5, 3×8, 4×6, etc.
I’ve also found a lot of success with using Jim Wendler’s 5/3/1 percentage based loading, and trying for a new rep record on the last set of each day. Over the last 5 months or so, I’ve also added back off sets, and done them with paused reps after the big set. This generally equates to around 25 total reps. If you read his books, you’ll find other loading protocols to try out as well.
Pairing your main lift with an exercise for your trunk like ab wheel rollouts or Pallof presses, or even just doing some extra mobility for an area that you know you need work on is great here. It doesn’t take much out of your gas tank, but allows you to fill your rest time in with something productive.
Strength Density Sets
The second grouping is where the fun happens. I like to set a timer for either 10 or 12 minutes, and try to do as many rounds as possible of the 3 lifts, and each week over 3 weeks, try to do more rounds in the allotted time. Sometimes I can get a whole extra round in, sometimes it’s just one set of one exercise, but the time keeps you honest and focused on the task at hand and a goal to beat each week.
Since it calls for 8-10 reps, you should really pick your 10-15 rep max here, and rest as necessary. Using too light a weight really doesn’t do much for you, and remember, the focus is still on building muscle, so you want the loading to be challenging and forces some rest time.
Putting it All Together
When it comes to which lifts to use, it’s really up to you. It’s a plug and play system in that regard, which is why I like it. Just keep the same lifts for at least 4 weeks so you’re making sure to compare apples to apples on your progress. An actual program might look like this:
|1A. Front Squat 6×4||1A. Bench Press 6×4||1A. Trap Bar Deadlift 6×4||1A. 1 Arm Kettlebell Push Press 5×5|
|1B. Ab Wheel Rollouts 3×10||1B. Face Pulls||1B. Half Kneeling Pallof Press 3×10||1B. Bench Side Holds 3x:15|
|*The following tri set is as many rounds as possible in 10 minutes.|
|2A. 2 arm SLDL x8-10||2A. 1 Arm DB Row x8-10||2A. Single Leg Squats to 12” box x8-10||2A. Fat Gripz Chin Ups x 8-10|
|2B. TRX Row x8-10||2B. Landmine Press x8-10||2B. Standing 1 Arm Cable Row x8-10||2B. 1 Arm DB Bench Press x8-10|
|2C. Low Incline alt. DB Bench Press x8-10||2C. 2 Arm Rear Foot Elevated Split Squat x8-10||2C. Hindu Pushup x8-10||2C. Valslide Leg Curl x8-10|
Of course, get a good warm up in before, and on lower body days I like to include some Olympic lifting for myself when I have time, but for clients we might do some jumps and medicine ball throws depending on their abilities. Lastly, finish up with 5-10 minutes of hard intervals on an Airdyne or treadmill a few times a week and you’re good to go.
This whole session will take an hour tops from picking a playlist through conditioning, and keeps me from slacking when I feel like life is pulling me in a million directions and there’s not enough time to get a solid training session in. If you’re even shorter on time, stick to fewer sets and a few more reps on the big exercise each day and try to PR from the week before. You can also just shorten the time limit on the tri set to 6 or 8 minutes or something if necessary.
Even if you have all the time in the world, this template works, because after the timed section, you can add some extra work for arms or shoulders or whatever that you think needs extra attention. And out here, with it being summer all year, arms can always use a little extra work.
When it’s time for you to start a new program, or life gets a little more hectic than usual, give this one a go. After all, being busy is no excuse for getting small and weak.